March 3, 2012 3:08 AM   Subscribe

A Pictorial Guide to China’s Politics: Left v. Right Translation of a neat infographic that does a fair job of summing up some of the broad differences between the left and right in popular Chinese political discourse.
posted by Abiezer (17 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
"In Communist Party parlance dating from the good ol’ Soviet days, however, the “left” was associated with Communist revolutionaries and the “right” with “reactionaries” who were repeatedly purged by Mao."

But Mao turned out to be even better at Fascism than Adolf Hitler. So?
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:42 AM on March 3, 2012

The original left vs. right infographic was discussed previously.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:43 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

But Mao turned out to be even better at Fascism than Adolf Hitler. So?

i guess if 'fascist' is the same thing as 'authoritarian'? and 'famine' is the same thing as 'genocide'?
posted by p3on at 3:46 AM on March 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

He did not, in that he did not combine the independent powers of the state, unions and private industry under the political control of the executive. Neither of the latter existed. So, in that way, terrible at fascism.
posted by jaduncan at 4:08 AM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Thanks for this. The next decade or so will be very interesting in China.
posted by readery at 4:36 AM on March 3, 2012

For a recent example of the kind of debate that's heard, here's a translation of a sixteen-point proposal by the popular left made in response to a series of articles in the People's Daily advocating further reform (by which is meant, broadly, market liberalisation).
posted by Abiezer at 4:49 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there a significant faction in the Chinese leadership which promotes the direct democracy idea (which should really gloss some other way, since it is unrelated to the English idea)? My understanding was the holding onto DX's depersonification was required. Are they trying to walk some narrow path which includes popular identification with leaders but doesn't lead to disunity or cultish demagoguery?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:37 AM on March 3, 2012

i guess if 'fascist' is the same thing as 'authoritarian'? and 'famine' is the same thing as 'genocide'?

If certain political commentators are to be believed, Stalin was a fascist because the Holodomor was the same thing as the Holocaust.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:34 AM on March 3, 2012

To the oppressed and the dead, I'm not sure there really is much of a difference between fascist or authoritarian, between genocide and man-made famine.
posted by kmz at 12:13 PM on March 3, 2012

it's obviously unfortunate that the famine occurred at all, but the death rates during that period were still below pre-revolutionary china's
posted by p3on at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The giant 5000lb gorilla completely missing from this infographic series is the Chinese Communist Party ( not the same and more important than the state or the government) and discussion of its proper role by left and right.
This is very true, but of course given the provenance of the Chinese original, from a domestic website, wasn't going to be up for open discussion.
During the Wukan incident recently, that was one of the fault lines apparent (though again, not spoken too openly on the Internet) in the online left communities, with a 'conservative' left who instinctively backed the Party-state and bought into the stories of villager resistance being 'fanned by hostile foreign forces', and what might be termed the 'ultra-left', who backed the villagers as legitimately resisting the depredations of capital (in the land-grab) and exercising their citizens' rights. To oversimplify, both factions would agree that they don't like much of what has happened in the 'reform' era, but the divide seems to be the former having some notion that it's 'a few bad apples' but otherwise the Party can still serve popular agenda, and the latter (ultra-left) having to my mind a more logical view, that corrupt officialdom and capital have already formed a new class that should be the target of popular opposition.
posted by Abiezer at 4:15 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that there once was a time in Chinese history, like around the 1930s, when the political terms "left" and "right" matched roughly to their Western meanings.

But it doesnt really work anymore, and it seems misleading to try and bifurcate modern Chinese political discourse into two "teams" of the sort that exist in Western two-party systems. Especially in a way that ignores the role of the Party, which essentially is Chinese politics.

"Left" and "Right" is a way of simplifying the varied strands of conservatism, nationalism, liberalism and socialism that have been openly competing in civil society and parliamentary systems in the West for a couple of centuries. The politics of the People's Republic of China just doesnt fit around that framework.
posted by moorooka at 11:28 PM on March 3, 2012

Can't agree it doesn't work, moorooka, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, these are terms by-and-large self-selected by the people using them. For the obvious historical reasons, it's a division that has been part of the Chinese discourse for a century or so. Second, though I suppose related, I see no reason that they have to match any Western model at some given point, especially given the meaning has been in flux in the West too. Lastly, despite the overweening position of the Party-state, I can't agree that it dictates or is the be-all-and-end-all of politics in China; one only has to look at how reactive much policy is to genuine grassroots initiative to realise the Chinese people aren't just passively taking whatever they're given; they're very much shaping the politics of the country, be it through strikes or more nebulously the weight of public opinion.
Agree more with the beginning of your last para, that these are of course reductive terms that likely mask the actual grounds of contention, but would again say that the framework does capture a basic divide in the discourse that serves a purpose given those caveats.
posted by Abiezer at 12:34 AM on March 4, 2012

But take the Wukan incident for example, or any of the other thousands of protests against corrupt property developers. Party loyalists taking the side of the corrupt elite against the dispossessed poor and approving of a violent crackdown are not any type of "Leftist" recognizable anywhere else in the world. And those taking the peasants' side could hardly be identified as "Rightist".
posted by moorooka at 2:36 AM on March 4, 2012

Still think the model holds in the views expressed on Wukan. Again, giving crude versions of positions which aren't my own, those on the conservative left who instinctively backed the authorities were concerned about foreign influence and incipient "colour revolutions"; they are no fans of property developers either but think if we see an end to the pre-eminent role of a Party they believe can be recaptured for the left (these are Leninists, after all), those corrupt property developers will have even freer rein. In their imaginings, they wouldn't support a crackdown on "the people", but are happy for the security forces to deal with foreign catspaws. Then, as I said above, there are more "ultra left" types who backed the people, for the sort of reasons you or I likely do. And from the right, support may have come because it was seen as agitation for democracy in a Western sense, or just because it was opposition; at the same time, that could be people who advocate privatisation of rural land.
What I'm trying to articulate is that the key rift remains economic and about the future direction of reform, particularly the role of the market, and left versus right, even in the traditional sense, fits that well enough. Everyone thinks they're on the side of the angels (much as anywhere else) in terms of what's good for the country and people and pretty much everyone is in favour of democracy, though of course differ sharply over what that means.
posted by Abiezer at 2:57 AM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've recently found out about the "Chinese New Left" and have been meaning to get to a post on it, but the little bit of info I've been able to find doesn't seem to give me too much to go on, alas, and I feel to do it justice I need a lot of time to get some good research in. Maybe if there was more English translation of original material around it would be easier, but it just doesn't seem that there's a lot of that lying about on the intertubes...
posted by symbioid at 8:51 AM on March 4, 2012

I think that the labeling of things like freedom of speech and individual rights as being "Rightist" concerns is just a way of delegitimizing them, while the real "Rightism" is the ignorant Han chauvinism that the Party is quite happy to promote.

And the flip side of the key issue being the role of the market is that the key issue is the role of the state, and I think the debate is really between those who want to see the Party looking after the interests of the poor and those that don't. The Fourth Generation of leadership might be a little more "left" than the Third in this respect. As for democracy, I don't think there are any "Rightists" out there who want to see their own vote worth the same as a nongmin's
posted by moorooka at 11:27 AM on March 4, 2012

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